Friday, January 03, 2014

Accidental Blues

Funny how easy it is to write a blues song when you aren't trying to write a blues song.

I'm in the middle of a scene in Stemwinder in which my protag is teaching a blues class to a group of fay players in faerie. Basic I, IV, V stuff, and so as he is telling them how to do it, I came up with three verses of a song, "Rat Catcher Blues." Just off-handedly, and it's actually
not too bad. Third verse is a reprise of the first, but in the past tense, and there is room for, oh, sixty or eighty more verses if I want ...

Here's a teaser from the novel, now a little over halfway through the first draft:

Nobody else had any questions. “Okay, let’s try it. And remember, I’m an embee*, we have have very low standards and lousy ears, so don’t worry about hitting bad notes.”
They laughed, which is what he wanted. 
“Counting it down ... one and two and three and–”
He did an intro as he talked and then nodded on the first note.

Gonna catch me a rat, darlin’, I heard him creepin’ round your back door/
Yeah, gonna catch me a rat, baby, I heard him creepin’ round your back door/
When I get done with that rat, honey, he won’t creep round here no more ...

Reach smiled as he listened. They were pretty good. There was somebody, probably that little woman on the violin whose instrument seemed a few cents sharp, and a couple of clams that buzzed from the old fay with the parlor guitar, but not bad.
Lot of worse ways to spend an evening.
Even as he played, he wondered how Scar was doing, chasing shapeshifters in the outback. She had been gone but two days, and he missed her. 

I see you behind that barrel, rat, you can’t hide yourself from me/
I see you behind that barrel, rat, you can’t hide yourself from me/
I’m gonna take my knife and cut you, gonna laugh while I watch you bleed.

One night early on in his first trips back and forth across the border, Reach had found himself in a dump of a bar in Memphis. There was an old bluesman drinking rye next to him. The old man was pretty soused and talkative, and Reach bought him drinks and listened. Sometime during the evening, the old man said, “Listen up, kid, here’s the secret to songs, hell, secret to all stories. Ain’t but two things worth writin’ about: Love and death. Get ‘em both into your song as much as you can.”
It struck a chord at the time, and Reach had see the truth of it more than few times since. All the memorable blues, all the memorable rock songs, were about love, death, or both. 

Cheap wisdom, for the cost of a few shots of rye 

*stands for MB, "monkey-boy," a term of derision used by fay about humans ...


Mike Byers said...

So when do we get to hear your recording of this? And I was thinking about you last night while watching a PBS piece on Elderly Instruments, a truly dangerous store that we both probably need to visit.

Steve Perry said...

I need to write another verse, I'm thinking, and once my cut finger heals up, I'll maybe ay down tracks.

I've gotten on Elderly's mailing list, I bought some strings there. Not a place you want to go with money in your pocket if the rent is due.